Watson Takes A Close Look At…
Center-Based Classrooms for Children with Autism: Visual Cues, Labeling
One key to promoting appropriate behavior and independence is to ensure children are
actively and appropriately engaged in activities with materials or people (Strain, 1997 ).
When setting up a classroom for children with autism engagement can be promoted with
a center based environment. Centers can include:
Independent work stations
Having a variety of centers to include within a student’s schedule can increase
appropriate behavior and independence. When developing centers for children with
autism, special attention should be directed to visual cues, specifically labeling These
pictures demonstrate supportive strategies to promote independent engagement in a
center based classroom.
Visual labeling is another good support for students with autism. Picture (A) is a play
area with bins labeled with photos and words. Picture (B) is in an art center. These
tiered bins are excellent organizers for centers. This one is labeled with Mayer Johnson
pictures and words. Examples include scissors, markers, paper, crayons.
Picture (C) is a puzzle center. The typical puzzle holder was too difficult for students to
use and they could not see the puzzle. Colored masking tape and numbers organize this
area. The puzzles are on a shelf divider. There is a desk on one side of the divider to
serve as a puzzle center. The puzzles can be labeled on the back with matching numerals
so they are placed in a matching section. Numbers can be placed on a student schedule if
he/she needs to choose a certain puzzle. The organization can serve as a beginning and
Visual labeling takes a different slant in a middle school. Pictures (C) and (D) are part of
a leisure center or area. Picture (C) shows visual choices and a flow chart of how to
participate in a leisure center or area. The teacher- made posters say, “Use the computer”,
“Draw a picture”, “Read a book”, “Talk to a friend”. They are posted right in the leisure
area as seen in Picture (D). The flow chart describes when and how to talk with a peer.
More visuals are used on the posters if needed by placing a student name on the poster
Engaging children with their environment promotes positive behavior and independence.
A center based classroom is a first step to achieving this engagement. Providing visual
cues such as labeling is a second step.